Elon Musk sends fired Twitter employees to arbitration, then he just doesn’t show up, new lawsuit claims

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Twitter Inc. is refusing to engage in arbitration with ex-employees who were fired when Elon Musk took over the company after pushing them to use that process to resolve claims that they weren’t paid, didn’t get promised severance, or were discriminated against, according to a lawsuit.

The company now known as X Corp. has been accused in multiple suits of numerous labor and workplace violations, including its failure to pay thousands of workers laid off late last year after Musk’s acquisition. About 2,000 former Twitter employees have resorted to fighting their claims in arbitration as the company has demanded — but Twitter hasn’t shown up, according to a complaint filed Monday in San Francisco federal court. 

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer representing former Twitter employees, said she continues to file arbitrations and is fielding calls from current employees filing such claims who argue the company hasn’t paid last year’s bonuses. 

The social media platform won a ruling in January requiring workers who had signed arbitration agreements to resolve their grievances in closed-door hearings overseen by private judges instead of through a class-action lawsuit in open court. It’s the legal equivalent of hand-to-hand combat, usually against a better-armed and financed opponent. Studies have shown that a benefit for companies is that workers will often give up rather than pursue their fight in arbitration.

Realizing the expense required for Twitter to arbitrate the claims, as required by its employment agreements, the company is now refusing to do so, Liss-Riordan said. “Now that it has made its bed, it doesn’t want to lie in it,” she added. Liss-Riordan represents Twitter workers in several suits against the company.

Twitter declined to comment.

Musk fired about half of Twitter’s 7,500 workers in November, following his $44 billion purchase of the company. Layoffs continued into 2023, reportedly bringing the company’s headcount under 2,000.

The case is Fabien Ho Ching Ma v. Twitter, 23-cv-03301, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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